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RIP Raymond Chow, the legend behind Golden Harvest films

I felt sad to learn that Hong Kong film producer Raymond Chow (鄒文懐) had passed away on Friday. Although I never knew much about him personally, his name was always there in the credits of all the best Hong Kong horror and supernatural fantasy films. His name was connected at the hip with director Tsui Hark and the fantastic Chinese Ghost Story series, based on the Strange Tales of Liao-zhai (聊齋誌異) a classic of Chinese folk literature.

Chow started out with the Shaw Brothers studio, but broke away to form his own company Golden Harvest in 1970. His success came through hiring Bruce Lee, and partnering with Hollywood studio Warner Brothers to make Enter the Dragon in 1973.

But it was his backing of Hong Kong horror that did it for me, after I first learnt about Tsui Hark from the Incredibly Strange Film Show TV series, and seeing subtitled movies like Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain late night on SBS, the multicultural broadcaster here in Australia. I can also remember sitting up all night in a deckchair, watching all three Chinese Ghost Story movies at a Byron Bay music festival, sleepless thanks to painful sunburn!

In the late 90s, all of the Golden Harvest films were reissued on video here in Australia at a time when an interest in Hong Kong cinema — and particularly the martial art films of Jackie Chan and Jet Lee — suddenly boomed. I remember going to a party and being shocked at how many of my friends had gone on a HK movie bender!

With Hong Kong becoming a part of mainland China again in 1997, many of the actors and directors who had worked with Golden Harvest, moved to Hollywood and began making films there. But not only that: the style and techniques developed during this Golden Harvest era, like the wire techniques and action sequences of choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, started to be used in Hollywood films like the Matrix, on which Yuen was hired.

Anyway, it might be fair in saying that Golden Harvest represents a golden era of film-making in Hong Kong, and Raymond Chow was the man who made it possible.

You can read more about his life here.

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